Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Last Emperor

My Ratings: Very Good

Release Date: 1987

Lessons: Fate governs everyone's life. Even if one is born emperor, it doesn't mean one will die an emperor. Fortune is fickle. It makes you remember that nothing lasts forever.
Who you are to one culture may not be respected by someone from another culture - "Might is right".

Although it is 160 minutes long and shot with breathtaking scope and sumptuousness, Bertolucci's film is a story about claustrophobia. Pu Yi, the Manchurian emperor of China who ascended the throne in 1908 at the age of three, is a prisoner in the palace he rules over. Outside, real power changes hands with each coup d'etat. Pu Yi grows to manhood, is tutored by a Westerner (Peter O'Toole), and marries a gorgeous princess (Joan Chen). However, the adult Pu Yi (John Lone) is destined for a communist reeducation camp when the war is over. From start to finish, Pu Yi is a passive antihero who can never come to grips with the idea that the absolute power conferred on him as a child was only a mirage. The mistakes Pu Yi made trying to realize that power, especially collaborating with the Japanese during the war, provide Bertolucci with the chance to explore his familiar theme of collaboration and its moral consequences (as he did in THE CONFORMIST and 1900). In the end, Pu Yi seems to have reached a kind of peace, and the terrible waste of a special man's life disappears into a drab, grey-clad Beijing.


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